Eye on Extremism: January 18, 2022

The Wall Street Journal: Yemen’s Houthi Rebels Claim Aerial Attacks On U.A.E. Capital

“Yemen’s Houthi rebels said they were behind aerial attacks in the United Arab Emirates that killed three people on Monday, as intensifying fighting in a 7-year-old civil war spills out across the broader Middle East. The Houthis, who are backed by Iran, said they had targeted Abu Dhabi with ballistic and cruise missiles and a large number of drones in retaliation for a recent escalation by the U.A.E. in Yemen, where Emirati-backed militants last week dealt the Houthis an unexpected defeat in the oil-rich province of Shabwa. The Emiratis have intensified their efforts recently in support of local militants in Yemen in a Saudi-led coalition that had suffered defeats. Three people were killed and six injured in explosions Monday that showed the Houthis are willing to strike in the heart of a country seen as the region’s main hub for international business. In response, the Saudi-led coalition carried out airstrikes in San’a, the Houthi-held Yemeni capital, Saudi state media said. Officials in Persian Gulf states said they were investigating the possibility that the Houthis used both drones and cruise missiles to target the Emirati capital. Regional officials briefed on the investigation said they have no reason to doubt the Houthi claims of responsibility, but don’t know exactly where the attack originated.”

The Washington Post: ‘Some People Just Don’t Like Us:’ In A Texas Synagogue, 11 Hours Of Terror

“Rabbi Charlie had spoken just the previous Saturday about how hard it is now. Life seemed overwhelming, he said in his last sermon before the man came into the synagogue and changed everything. “We are living through a challenging time,” Charles Cytron-Walker told members of Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Tex. “We don’t always know how to cope. . . . There’s a lot of fear and there’s a lot of uncertainty.” But the Jewish people had been here before, the rabbi said, and had always endured. “They’ve been enslaved and they are watching plague after plague,” he said. “Imagine . . . watching the world get turned upside down time and time again. It would have been amazing to experience — and terrifying.” On Saturday, the call came into Colleyville police at 10:41 a.m. Emergency at the synagogue. A man came into the sanctuary during Sabbath services and took hostages. The terror was broadcast to worshipers at the Reform Jewish synagogue in a suburb of 26,000 people, northeast of Fort Worth, and to anyone else around the world live on Facebook. And as the intruder lashed out at Jews and Israel and America, in Colleyville and Dallas and Washington, the American machinery of counterterror switched from Ready to Go. Police swarmed the area, cordoned off the neighborhood, evacuated people from nearby homes, and set up a command center to coordinate more than 200 law enforcement officers who arrived from nearby cities, from around Texas, and, with startling speed, from Quantico, Va.”

United States

The New York Times: Officials Investigating Synagogue Attacker’s Link To 2010 Terror Case

“The tabloids called her Lady Qaeda. A neuroscientist who was educated at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, she was accused of trying to kill American soldiers and plotting to blow up the Statue of Liberty. Since then, Aafia Siddiqui has spent almost 12 years in a federal prison in Texas. Now, investigators are looking into whether her story may have motivated the British attacker who took four people hostage at a Texas synagogue on Saturday. Since Ms. Siddiqui’s conviction in 2010 for “terroristic events” in Afghanistan, her name has become a rallying cry among Islamists in her native Pakistan, and her defiance in the face of arrest has made her a hero to jihadist militants worldwide, experts said. “Her rejection of mainstream life makes her an empowering example for the jihadi groups who exploit her victimhood,” said Abdul Basit, a research fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore. The F.B.I. said on Sunday that the attacker, Malik Faisal Akram, spoke of Ms. Siddiqui’s case, which has been used as a pretext for previous terrorist attacks and has also garnered renewed focus since American forces withdrew from Afghanistan last summer. In October, hundreds of people marched to the U.S. Consulate in the port city of Karachi to demand that the Biden administration order her release.”

Syria

Asharq Al-Awsat: Syrian Regime Forces Launch Anti-ISIS Campaign In Deir Ezzor Desert

“The Syrian army backed by pro-government factions, including the National Defense Forces (NDF), kicked off a new combing operation in the southern countryside of Deir Ezzor. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), the operation is meant to secure the area of al-Duwair, which is located between the towns of al-Mayadin and al-Bukamal. In a report, the London-based monitoring group said that Syrian government forces are searching for “ISIS members who stepped up their activities in al-Badia [the Syrian desert] since the beginning of January.” The new operation is backed by the Russian Aerospace Forces, who have been targeting ISIS hideouts in the deserts of Raqqa and Deir Ezzor. A recent wave of Russian airstrikes, which targeted the outskirts of the town of al-Resafa in the southern Raqqa countryside, killed 11 terrorists and wounded at least 20 others. Recent attacks by ISIS cells on Syrian regime forces in the southern countryside of Deir Ezzor were likely behind the decision to launch the operation. The new operation will likely push ISIS cells out from the Deir Ezzor desert for some time only. A more comprehensive operation is needed to fully neutralize the terrorist group’s presence in the central region.”

Iraq

The Wall Street Journal: U.S. Embassy, Civilian Targets Attacked In Iraq

“Rockets targeted the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and men on motorcycles hurled grenades at the offices of political rivals of Iran-backed militias, threatening a new spiral of violence as Iraq moves to form a new government following last year’s parliamentary election. A week after Iraqi militias hit bases hosting U.S. forces, the attacks on Thursday and Friday marked a shift in focus, with civilian targets coming under heavy fire. No one claimed responsibility for the attacks. One of the rockets landed in an elementary school inside Baghdad’s Green Zone, the heavily fortified area of diplomatic and government buildings in the city’s center, injuring a woman and a young child, while air defenses at the U.S. Embassy shot down two other missiles, Iraqi security forces said. Three separate attacks took aim at political parties opposed to the influence of the country’s powerful militias. Iranian-allied militias in the country are fighting to reassert their influence in the country after suffering a setback in Iraq’s national election last year, when they lost ground to other Shiite-led parties. Voters handed the largest number of seats to a bloc led by Moqtada al-Sadr, a Shiite cleric and self-styled nationalist who has vowed to limit the power of the militias.”

Al Monitor: SDF Hands Over 50 Iraqi IS Suspects As Prison Concerns Mount

“Fifty Iraqi men suspected of belonging to the Islamic State (IS) and who had been captured in northeastern Syria were handed over to the Iraqi authorities Jan. 8 at the country’s northwestern border crossing of Rabia. As the US-backed, Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) continue growing closer to the government in Damascus, and concerns fester about the potential for jailbreaks from prison facilities housing thousands of Iraqis as well as Syrians and others accused of involvement in IS in northeastern Syria, efforts seem to be underway to bring back more individuals across the border. On Nov. 8, a major planned attack on the notorious Sinaa prison in the Ghweiran neighborhood in the western part of the city of Hasakah was thwarted. The SDF announced Dec. 25 that they had arrested the man they held to have been responsible for the plan to attack the prison, calling him an “emir” (“leader”), but without giving information on the place and date of the arrest. Local sources concurred that he had been involved in the jailbreak operation, but said he was not an emir and instead answered to others from Raqqa. They claimed he had been arrested in an area of the Deir al-Zor desert near Abu Khashab.”

Turkey

Daily Sabah: Turkish Security Forces Kill 44 Terrorists In Retaliatory Strikes

“Turkey has eliminated 44 terrorists in anti-terror cross-border operations since an attack last week, defense minister Hulusi Akar said on Saturday. Responding to Anadolu Agency (AA) on the operations launched after three Turkish soldiers were killed in an improvised explosive device blast, Akar said: “After the treacherous attack, we launched punitive operations against the detected targets” in the Operation Peace Spring area in northern Syria. Three Turkish soldiers were killed when a bomb planted by terrorists went off on Jan. 8 in the Akçakale district of the southeastern Şanlıurfa province near Turkey's border with Syria. Though the Defense Ministry did not reveal which terrorist organization carried out the attack, Akçakale lies near areas in northern Syria where the PKK terrorist group's Syrian wing, the YPG, is present. The defense minister also underlined that Turkey expects all of its partners to fulfill the responsibilities outlined in signed agreements. “We did not leave the blood of our martyrs on the ground, we will not let them go. We expect our partners in Syria to fulfill their responsibilities within the scope of the agreements. We can say that attacks from beyond our borders, which we consider to be planned, push our limits of tolerance and even exceed our tolerance limits.”

Afghanistan

The Wall Street Journal: Afghanistan’s Taliban Battle Rebellion By Ethnic Minority Fighters

“Afghanistan’s Taliban are battling a rebellion by ethnic minority fighters in their own ranks in the country’s north, a sign that ties are fraying within the alliance built by the Islamist group that seized control of the country in August. Some Uzbeks who joined the Taliban, which is dominated by Pashtuns from the country’s south and east, along with other Uzbeks, fought Taliban forces in Faryab province this week. At least four people were killed and others wounded in clashes Friday, local residents said. Inamullah Samangani, a spokesman for the Taliban, said that it was supporters of democracy that use ethnic divisions. “Now that they have nothing, the so-called democrats are struggling to come up with which ethnic group Talib is good and which is bad,” Mr. Samangani said, on Twitter. Ethnic divisions run deep in Afghanistan and have been one of the main drivers of decades of war in the country. Uzbeks, Tajiks and other groups tend to dominate in the north and traditionally have opposed the Taliban, whose leadership is predominantly Pashtun. However, some members of the northern ethnic groups also joined the Taliban and played an important role in its conquest of the country last year.”

Pakistan

Associated Press: Pakistan Says Militant Attack On Army Post Kills Soldier

“Militants attacked an army post Friday in Pakistan’s restive northwest, bordering Afghanistan, triggering an intense shootout that killed a soldier, the military said. The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack. According to a military statement, the predawn attack took place in Bannu, a district in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. It said troops returned fire, but it was unclear if the attackers suffered any casualties. In their claim of responsibility, posted on Twitter, the Pakistani Taliban did not provide further details. Also Friday, Pakistani troops raided a militant hideout in the northwestern Miran Shah town, killing a militant and arresting two suspects, a separate military statement said. Although militants often target security post and troops routinely carry out raids on militant hideouts, the latest violence comes a day after the Pakistani Taliban confirmed the killing over the weekend in Afghanistan of the group’s former spokesman. The Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, or TTP as the Pakistani Taliban are known, vowed to avenge his killing. The Pakistani Taliban are an umbrella group and a separate organization from the Afghan Taliban. In November, Pakistan announced a month-long cease-fire with the TTP.”

Yemen

Bloomberg: UAE To Ask U.S. To Restore Houthi Terrorism Label After Attack

“The United Arab Emirates will ask the U.S. to put Yemen’s Iranian-backed Houthis back on its list of terrorist organizations after a drone attack on the Emirati capital killed three people, a person familiar with government thinking said Monday. The UAE will work on building pressure through the UN Security Council over the strike and the capture of an Emirati vessel off the coast of Yemen earlier this month, the person said. It wasn’t immediately clear how Washington would respond to such a request given increased frictions in relations between the two allies over issues ranging from Iran to growing Chinese influence in the Persian Gulf. The U.S. removed its terrorist designation for the Houthi fighters a year ago as part of a push by the Biden administration to end their war with Yemen’s Saudi-backed government that has contributed to one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises. U.S. efforts to broker a peace deal have faltered, however, with the Houthis reluctant to embrace truce efforts.”

Middle East

AFP: Tunisia Sentences Nine Militants To Death Over Soldier’s Murder

“A Tunisian court has sentenced to death nine militants accused of having beheaded a soldier in 2016, a murder claimed by the Daesh group, media reported Saturday. Tunisia hands death sentences to convicts mainly in trials related to national security under a 2015 terror law, despite a moratorium on capital punishment in place since 1991. Friday’s verdict concerns the murder of army corporal Said Ghozlani in November 2016, in the Mount Mghila area near the border with Algeria. He was found beheaded in his home in that region, which is considered a hideout for militants. The Daesh group claimed responsibility for killing the soldier. The Tunis court on Friday also sentenced to jail 15 people accused of involvement in the murder, with terms ranging from 32 to 44 years in prison. Tunisia saw a surge in radical Islamist activity following the ouster of autocratic president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in the 2011 revolution. Dozens of members of the security forces have since been killed in militant attacks. The security situation has greatly improved in recent years, but Tunisian forces continue to track down suspected militants in the Mount Mghila and Mount Chaami regions.”

Nigeria

Reuters: Gunmen Kill More Than 50 In Nigeria's Northwest, Residents Say

“Dozens of gunmen on motorbikes ransacked a village and killed more than 50 people in the latest violence in northwest Nigeria, residents said on Sunday. Gangs have been terrorising areas of the northwest in recent years, forcing thousands to flee and gaining global notoriety through mass kidnappings at schools for ransom. Local elder Abdullahi Karman Unashi told Reuters that the men entered Dankade village in Kebbi state on Friday night and exchanged gunfire with soldiers and policemen. Security forces were forced to retreat, leaving the attackers to burn shops and grain silos and take cattle into the early hours of Saturday, he said. “They killed two soldiers and one police officer and 50 villagers. (They) kidnapped the community leader of Dankade and many villagers, mostly women and children,” Karman said. Didzi Umar Bunu, son of the abducted community leader, said the gunmen had returned early on Sunday and torched more houses. “They have not called or made any ransom demand. Dankade village is littered with dead bodies,” he said on the phone. Nafiu Abubakar, police spokesperson for Kebbi, did not respond to calls and messages to his phone.”

Somalia

CNN: Somali Government Spokesman Injured In 'Odious Terrorist Attack,' PM Says

“A Somali government spokesman was injured on Sunday in an “odious terrorist attack,” the country's Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble said. The Prime Minister “strongly condemns the odious terrorist attack targeting Government Spokesman, Mr Mohamed Ibrahim Moalimu who sustained injuries today but is in [a] stable condition,” the Somali Prime Minister said Sunday on Twitter. He also wished Moalimu a “quick recovery.” State media outlet SNTV News reported on Sunday that Moalimu was injured “in a cowardly terrorist suicide attack [that] targeted his car,” in Waaberi, a district of the Banaadir region of Somalia. Waaberi district is a neighborhood in the southwestern part of the capital city Mogadishu. While the state media report did not name a suspect or organization responsible for the attack, Somalia has been racked by terrorism from militant group Al-Shabaab -- an affiliate of al Qaeda -- in recent years. In March 2021, Al-Shabaab claimed responsiblity for a car bomb blast that killed at least 20 people in Mogadishu. Two years earlier, the group claimed a truck bombing that killed 85 people outside the country's capital. The director of communications of the Somali Presidency Abdirashid M. Hashi also tweeted good wishes for Moalimu.”

Africa

The Defense Post: Burkina Attack Kills Around 10 Civilians: Security Source

“At least 10 civilians have been killed in an attack blamed on jihadists in northern Burkina Faso, an area in the grip of a six-year insurgency, security sources said Sunday. “Unidentified armed individuals carried out an attack on the village of Namssiguian in Bam province” on Saturday, a security source told AFP, adding that the provisional death toll was around 10 dead civilians. A local resident put the provisional death toll at nine and said that significant damage had been caused to shops and businesses in the village, which had been torched. “The terrorists stayed in the village for several hours, where they looted and destroyed,” he said, adding that the assailants had “sabotaged the telephone antennas beforehand, making all communication impossible.” The security source warned that the toll could still rise as “families are still awaiting news about family members.” Burkina Faso has been struggling with jihadist attacks since 2015, when militants linked to Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group began mounting cross-border raids from Mali. More than 2,000 people have died, according to a toll compiled by AFP. The national emergency aid agency says that 1.5 million people, nearly two-thirds of them children, were internally displaced as of November 30.”

Newsweek: African Christians Face Deadly Violence In 2022

“…The Counter Extremism Project recently highlighted political turmoil in Somalia that has widened the door for al-Shabab while weakening the fight against terrorism. According to a State Department report, “Al-Shabaab continued to impose its own interpretation of Islamic practices and sharia on other Muslims and non-Muslims, including executions as a penalty for alleged apostasy in areas under its control.” African Christians are most certainly at risk. On Jan. 6, The Christian Post reported that more than 400 million Christians around the world live in countries that persecute churches—and that persecution is only worsening. “Across Africa,” the report says, “from sub-Saharan Africa to East Africa, there are at least a couple of dozen terrorist organizations that have the ambition, from their point of view, to install caliphates in their territories.” Even North Africa isn't without its own unholy reputation for anti-Christian abuses. Algeria was noted as Open Doors 24th worst persecutor in 2021, alongside Tunisia (26th) and Morocco (27th). Christian converts are the primary targets of persecution, not only due to family and extended family accusations and threats, but also because of abuses imposed by local leaders and elders.”

United Kingdom

BBC News: Manchester Arena Attack: Man Arrested Over Bombing Wanted In Drugs Probe

“A man arrested during the Manchester Arena bombing investigation is on the run in Libya and wanted by police for his role in a drugs conspiracy. Zuhir Nassrat, 23, was linked to two of the three chemicals used by the Abedi brothers to make the bomb that killed 22 people in May 2017. He was arrested but not charged in relation to the attack. He denied playing any part in what happened. Salman and Hashem Abedi were responsible for the bombing. Three trials at Manchester Crown Court, the last of which ended earlier, have detailed the criminal activities of associates of the bombers. In the final case, five men pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply drugs, including cocaine, from January 2017 until December 2020. Those convicted, all from south Manchester, are: Brothers Mohammed and Ebrahim Sadigh, Illyas Abudaber, Hamza Azouz, Hamam Alhamruni. The first four have appeared in the evidence at the ongoing Manchester Arena Inquiry due to their links to the Abedi brothers or other suspects. Sentencing will take place on a date to be fixed. Shamsudin Khalifa, the only man to proceed to trial, was found not guilty earlier.  The final trial heard business cards were printed and spread around Manchester advertising named “drug lines”, comprising phone numbers where people could order narcotics.”

The Independent: Two Teenagers Held In Manchester After ‘Act Of Terror’ At US Synagogue

“Two teenagers have been arrested in Manchester after a British man flew to the US, bought a weapon and held people hostage in a 10-hour stand-off at a synagogue. Malik Faisal Akram, originally from Blackburn in Lancashire, was shot dead when the FBI entered the building in Texas on Saturday night. US President Joe Biden branded the incident “an act of terror” and UK police are working with authorities in America on the investigation. Greater Manchester Police (GMP) announced that officers from Counter Terror Policing North West had made two arrests in south Manchester on Sunday evening. They said the teenagers, whose ages and genders they did not immediately confirm, remain in custody for questioning. GMP said police forces in the region are liaising with local communities to put in place any measures to provide further reassurance. The four hostages held at Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas were unharmed. Akram’s family said they were “absolutely devastated” by what had happened and “do not condone any of his actions”, according to a statement which had been shared on the Blackburn Muslim Community Facebook page.”

Europe

AFP: Case Dropped Against Swiss Man Thought Linked To 2020 Jihadist Attack In Vienna

“Swiss prosecutors said Friday they had dropped their case against one of two young Swiss men arrested in late 2020 for alleged links to a deadly shooting rampage in Vienna. “In the proceedings against the older of the two accused, the OAG issued a discontinuation order,” a spokeswoman from the Office of the Attorney General told AFP in an email. On November 2, 2020, convicted Islamic State sympathizer Kujtim Fejzulai killed four people in Vienna before being shot dead by police. It was the first major attack in Austria in decades and the first blamed on a jihadist. Two Swiss citizens who knew Fejzulai were arrested in the northeastern Swiss town of Winterthur just a day after the attack on suspicion they may have helped in its preparation. The two, who were 18 and 24 at the time, were already known by police and the targets of prior criminal cases over terror-linked offenses. The eldest of the two was known to have jihadist sympathies with an interest in attacks carried out by the Islamic State group. In its discontinuation order, seen by AFP, the OAG acknowledged that he had never credibly distanced himself from IS and is believed to have been influenced by its violent ideology. But there was no evidence that he had participated in any way in the Vienna attack or had prior knowledge of it.”

Daily Dose

Extremists: Their Words. Their Actions.

Fact:

On May 23, 2016, two suicide bombings at a military base in Aden, Yemen, killed at least 45 army recruits and injured approximately 60 people. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack.   

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